Bayside middle school clobbers book target

A pair of kids from each of five classes that won the challenge take a moment to look over the more than 1,300 books they gathered for the 1000x5 book drive. - Christine van Reeuwyk/News staff
A pair of kids from each of five classes that won the challenge take a moment to look over the more than 1,300 books they gathered for the 1000x5 book drive.
— image credit: Christine van Reeuwyk/News staff

Stacks of books teeter on a bench at Bayside middle school.

One topples and the student stacking it squeals.

The Bayside Youth in Action team cajoled, promised and prompted their classmates to bring in the piles of picture-laden texts.

“We’re doing it for the 1000x5 program to get books for children under five years old,” explained Claire Olcen, while classmates stacked more than 1,000 books behind her. “Children by the age of five should be exposed to 1,000 books.”

“We did a school-wide challenge. So we challenged each pod to bring in the most books,” added Jessica Dorman. “We were trying to get it out to the whole school and get every class to bring in books.”

Posters, prizes and presentations throughout the month kept the drive alive and they collected 1,355 books for their efforts. It surpassed the goal of 604 set when the school did a book drive a couple of years ago.

“That is amazing,” said 1000x5 project leader Daphne Macnaughton. “When I went and talked to those young people, before they started the project, I said we all get caught up when there is disaster somewhere … that’s really important. But there are also some kids in our own backyard that don’t have the advantages that they do.

“Obviously they care,” she said.

The 1000x5 project recycles gently-used children’s books from the community, sorts them into three age-appropriate categories, and redistributes them throughout the Peninsula — targeting children under five years old.

“It’s important because they get exposed to books then they pick up reading easier,” Dorman said.

Mcnaughton previously worked as a school principal in Saanich and each year met children starting kindergarten who hadn’t heard a single book read to them.

“The challenges that poses for young children, when their classmates understand how a story works, that the story is coming from the squiggles on the page, the sense they have of information and general knowledge … is tremendous when compared to kids who haven’t had books read to them. It really poses challenges to those kids,” Mcnaughton said. Those kids struggle with language development and the ability to express themselves.

“The problem is good books cost money,” Mcnaughton said. “Usually if children have not been read to it’s because of money, or it’s because the adult has literacy challenges … yet in the privacy of their own home (an adult lacking literacy skills) may tackle a children’s book.”

Another indirect goal, is for those parents stressed out over time, rent and balancing bills to connect with their kids.

“Twenty minutes with a kid and a book is like a little time out,” she said. “It’s a stress reliever and it’s really important bonding time with the child and the parent.”

Each Thursday afternoon volunteers are busy at the former Saanichton school, courtesy of the Saanich School District one of the top supporters of the program, sorting recycled reading material. Funded by Success by Six, and under the non-profit umbrella of Beacon Community Services, the goal of 1000x5 recycling book program is to distribute 40,000 books to children and families in the community by the end of the school year.

“We have just over 10,000 books to go, and we still have five months to do it,” Mcnaughton said.

Children’s books can be dropped off at the Saanich School Board office, any District 63 school or the Peninsula Co-op Food Centre on Keating X Road.

“Our overall group goal is to do everything we can to raise awareness of reading to young children, and to do what we can to help ensure that all kids on the Peninsula have at least 1,000 books read to them,” Mcnaughton said. “That’s not even one bedtime story every night.”

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